The Norse Way

 
Definitions
Nine Worlds
Home of the Gods
Wild Hunt     
Norse Week
Norse Festivals     
Runic Alphabets





Definitions
 

Here are some definitions that I wanted to clear up about the Norse gods.

The word "Aesir" can mean gods and goddesses who belong to the tribe of gods living in Asgard.

However, more precisely, "Aesir" is plural for the gods, where as an Aesir god may be referred to as "As". While the Aesir goddesses were known as "Asynior" or "Asyniur". The singular form of Asyniur is called "Asynia".

Similarly, the "Vanir" was a tribe of gods, who lived in Vanaheim, while a single Vanir is called a "Van".

See Aesir or Vanir for a listing of the deities.

   



Nine Worlds
 

The Nine Worlds has already been listed in the Norse Creation. I have listed it again, so that you may find information more easily.

   


 
Alfheim World of the elves
Asgard World of the Aesir
Jötunheim World of the giants and frost-giants.
Midgard Home of mankind.
Muspelheim World of fire and the fire-giant, home of the giant Surt.
Nidavellir Home of the dwarves
Niflheim World of the ice and that of the dead, which is also known as Hel.
Svartalfheim World of the black elves (svartálfar)
Vanaheim Home of the Vanir



Home of the Gods
 

The following list, show the palace or hall of the Aesir gods and goddesses. Most of these homes are within the walls of Asgard. Freyr, as prince of the elves, has his home in Alfheim, which is the world of the elves.

   


 
Deity Palace or Hall Description
Odin Valaskjalf
Valhalla
The hall that contained his throne, Hlidskjalf.
The hall of the slain heroes, who waits for the coming of Ragnarok.
Frigg Fensalir The palace, which no one can enter without the permission of her attendant, Fulla.
Thor Thrudvangar The palace had 540 apartments, and the hall is called Bilskirnir.
Njord Nóatún The home of Njord was said to be located by the sea.
Freyr Alfheim The world of the elves, where Freyr was their lord.
Freyja Folkvang

Sessrumnir
Her palace means, the "Field of Folk". Fólkvangar was her hall, where the slain heroes reside.
Freyja reside in this hall.
Heimdall Himinbiorg Hall that was located near the Bifrost, the "Rainbow Bridge".
Balder Breidablik Balder and his wife Nanna lived in Breidablik.
Forseti Glitnir The hall in which Forseti presided over as judge for gods and men.



Wild Hunt
 

The Wild Hunt was a popular folklore found in Scandinavian and Germanic myth, as well in later folklore in Britain and northern European countries, which had changed over the centuries.

The group of hunters were variously known as the Furious Host or Raging Host. The hunt usually takes part during winter, where a spectral host of horsemen riding through the stormy sky, with their ghostlike hounds. The chillingly sound of the hunting horn can be heard reverberating through the woods and meadows.

In the Norse myths, the original leader of the hunt was the god Odin, known in Germanic myth as Wodan. Odin rode his eight-legged horse, called Sleipnir. His company of hunters were the Valkyries and the dead warriors who resided with him in Valhalla.

The hunt begins on Winter Nights (October 31) and doesn't end May Eve (April 30) of the following year. These two nights were special, because lights go out on all Nine Worlds and the spirits and goblins are free to roam on the earth's surface. However the height of the Wild Ride falls on the night of midwinter festival, known as Yule (December 21), traditionally the shortest day of the year in Scandinavia and Germany.

In other legends, different names were given for the leader of the Hunt, depending on the regions in Europe and periods. Some of the lead hunters were legendary and historical rulers, such as King Arthur, Charlemagne, Herla and Frederick Barbarossa.

There is even a Welsh legend about the Wild Hunt, whose lead bunter was said to be named Gwyn ap Nudd, an otherworldly fairy ruler. Gwyn owned a pack of fairy hounds, known as cw'n annwfn. The Welsh Arthur was sometimes said to be the leader, as it is the case in the tale of Culhwch and Olwen in the Mabinogion, where they hunted the deadly wild boar, Twrch Trwyth. Gwyn was usually associated with the Welsh May Day (Calan Mai).

According to English folklore, the Wild Huntsman was Herne, who appeared in Shakespeare's play, The Merry Wives of Winsdor. Herne was perhaps a historical figure, living at the time of Richard II of England, during the 14th century. Herne saved the king's life from the deadly antlers and killed the white stag, but he himself was dying. A wizard saved his life, by placing the stag's antlers on Herne's head, and chanting a spell. Herne discovered that he would lose his skills in hunting and tracking as payment for his survival. Herne loved hunting more than anything else in his life, was distraught, fell into depression and died. His body was discovered in his forest, near the castle of Winsdor. Since then, he reappeared with other ghostly companions, doing what he loves most - hunting.

 
Related Information
Name
Wild Hunt.

Related Articles
Odin (Wodan), Freyja.

King Arthur.



Norse Week
 

The table below showed days of the week that we are most similar with was mostly derived from the name of Germanic gods and goddesses. I have only the names of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) days listed.

Only Sunday, Monday and Saturday retained the Roman name. For comparison purpose, I had included the Roman days in the last column.

   

 
Days German's Days Anglo-Saxon Days
(Old English)
Roman Days
Sunday sunnuntag sunnandæg dies solis (Sol's day)
Monday   monandæg dies lunae (Luna's day)
Tuesday týsdagr (Tiwaz's day) Tiwesdæg dies Martis (Mars' day)
Wednesday (Wodan's day) Wodnesdæg dies Mercurii (Mercury's day)
Thursday (Thor's day) Thursdæg dies Iovis (Jupiter's day)
Friday friatag (Frija's day) frigedæg dies Veneris (Venus' day)
Saturday   Sæternesdæg dies Saturni (Saturn's day)



Norse Festivals
 

Below is a list of annual festivals that were celebrated by the pagan Germanic and Scandinavian people. Some of the dates matched the time of the solstices and equinoxes, and usually has to do with agriculture and fertility.

Some of these festivals were usually known by the Old Norse word as blót, which means "sacrifice". Sacrifices doesn't necessarily mean blood sacrifices (eg. animal, human, etc); some sacrifices as witness of the ancient Germans, where they deposited money and weapons into lakes or bogs.


Today, a pagan religion of Wicca have adopted some of Germanic festivals.

Disablót  

The sacrifice to the Dísir - either a minor deities or a spirits. Disablót was sometimes called disfest (Feast of the Dísir) They were protectress of household and fertility spirits. The sacrifices were held some time between around the end of autumn and the beginning of winter. Every little is known about disablót.

Feast of Vali February 14

This day was to commemorated the god Vali, son of Odin and Rind. Vali was the god who avenged Balder, by killing his Balder's twins, Hod. Vali was one of the survivor of Ragnarok.

Ostara March 21

The feast of Ostara was celebrated on the spring equinox, when the day and night is equal in length. Ostara was a German goddess of the sun and fertility. Her festival was important because it celebrated fertility, when farmers begin to plough and sow the field. She was equated with the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, who was identified with the Easter festival. The Christians originally called Easter in Greek and Latin as Pascha, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ on a Sunday.

Ostara was a time when children would decorate the egg with vibrant colours and patterns. Eostre was the goddess of spring and her sacred animal was the rabbit, which symbolised fertility. The eggs and rabbits were pagan symbols of fertility and rebirth of life and the seasons. Christians had adopted these pagan customs of spring fertility. And even today the Easter eggs and rabbits were as much symbols of modern Easter as was resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Ostara had always been held annually on the spring equinox, but the Christian Easter Sunday was held on a different day. With Easter, it was held on the first Sunday of the full moon (the paschal moon) on or after the Spring Equinox. So the date of Easter Sunday can fall anywhere between March 21 and April 25. This is the date used by the Christians in the West, which may differ to the dates celebrated by the Orthodox Christians in the East.

Since finding Easter Sunday relied on the equinox and the lunar calendar, it was further complicated when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, replacing the Julian calendar. A new way of calculating the Easter Sunday was required for working out with the new calendar. It would take to long to explain here how the Christians calculated the date of Easter.

May Eve April 30

May Eve coincided with the later German Walpurgis' Night, because it marked the last day of winter. It is a German version of the Celtic Beltane's Eve (see Celtic Calendar). May Eve marked the last night that Odin hanged from Yggdrasill (the great cosmic Ash tree). Odin has a noose around his neck for nine nights, between April 22 and April 30, as a sacrifice to master the nine mighty rune spells. See Search For Wisdom.

May Eve also marked the time when the spirit world roamed free on the earth's surface, while witchcraft and sorcery is the most potent at this time. After midnight, bonfires were lit to celebrate beginning of summer (May Day or May 1), which also marked the end of the Wild Hunt.

According to Germanic and Scandinavian folklore, Walpurgis' Night marks the occasion of the witches' coven or revelry at Brocken on Harz mountains; one of the important sabbats in witches' calendar. The celebration was linked to Walpurgis or Walburga (AD 710-779), a Benedictine abbess and saint, whose feast day was held on February 25. She was sometimes confused with a pre-Christian fertility goddess named Waldborg, and also with Waluburg, a 2nd century Germanic seeress.

Mid-Summer blót June 21

Mid-summer sacrifice or miðsumarsblót falls on the day of the summer solstice, when the northern hemisphere experienced its longest day of the year. I did not much find much reference to this solstice celebration.

Fallfest September 23

A minor festival marking the day of Autumn equinox. It was a day to commemorate the bountiful harvest.

Winter Nights October 31

Winter Nights or Vetrnætr marked the beginning of winter as well as the beginning of the New Year, according to the Norse calendar. The Celtic people called this night Samhain eve, a mid-autumn festival (see Celtic Calendar). Like the Celtic counterpart, the people used to celebrate this night by lighting large bonfires to frightened spirits and demons, because on this night they freely roamed the world. It is also on this night that Odin was supposed to lead the spectral horsemen and hounds in the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt lasted throughout winter, peaking at Yule's night before ending the following year on May Eve (Walpurgis' Night).

The last night of October is celebrated by some modern English-speaking countries as Halloween (All Hallows' Eve), which is the eve of the Christian All Saints' Day, where children dressed in costumes, going from door to door in the neighbourhood, demanding trick or treat. The treat that was usually given were candy.

Yule December 21

Yule was midwinter festival, celebrated by the Norse/Teutonic and Celtic people as the day of merrymaking. It was commemorated with the Yule cake and giving out gifts. It was a day sacred to Odin, Thor and Freyr.

Yule was the night when the Wild Hunt was at its peak. Odin rode his eight-legged horse, named Sleipnir. Odin led a band of spectral horsemen and hounds in a hunt through the night sky. On the night of Yule, children usually placed socks filled with hay outside their doors to feed Sleipnir.

Since Yule marked the shortest day in the year (though the winter solstice now lands on December 22), the Wild Hunt is at its greatest height, because the night was at its longest duration. The Christians has adopted many of the pagan customs of Yule in the day of Christmas (December 25), such as giving out gifts to children, the decoration of the fir trees. Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus as he was popularly known today, and his reindeers replaced Odin and Sleipnir of the Wild Hunt.

The Roman version of this day of merrymaking was known as Saturnalia, which was celebrated between December 17 and 24.



Some of the festivals are still celebrated by the modern cults, such as the Neopaganism, Wiccans, witches, etc.

 
Related Information
Name
blót – "sacrifice".

Related Articles
Odin, Wodan, Thor, Freyr, Vali, Ostara, Eostre. Disir.



Runic Alphabets
 

Runic alphabets provided a brief background about the mystical lettering systems used by the Germanic people in ancient and medieval times.




Variations of the Runes

The runes were set of Germanic alphabets that were used by the North German tribes, from the 2nd century BC to the 13th century AD. The runic alphabets were often called "Futhark", which is derived from the first six runic letters of the runic alphabets (F-U-TH-A-R-K).

There are three different variations of the Runic alphabets.

The Etruscan or the Latin alphabets probably influenced the runic scripts in the 2nd or 1st century BC, particularly when that some of runes match the Latin alphabets in form. The Teutonic (Early or Common Germanic) scripts consisted of 24 characters.

It was used in northern Europe, right up to the 8th century AD. The image on the right, I have shown the Early or Common runes (with the English equivalents to the sound, written in white).


The Anglian or Anglo-Saxon scripts, also known as Futhork, varied in number, from 28 to 33 characters. The additional characters in the Anglian runes were used to compensate for the Old English sounds that does not appeared in the Early Futhark runes. These scripts were used in the British Isle, from the 5th to the 12th century AD. (Click here to see the Anglian runes.)

There are two variations of the Anglo-Saxon scripts. With Frisian runes, 4 new scripts were added to the Early Futhark: ac, ae, o (os), and yr. Then another five were added to the Anglo-Saxon runes; the extra runes known as the Northumbrian runes included: q, k, st, and gar.


The third variation was the Nordic (Scandinavian) runes, is called the Younger Futhark, which was used in Scandinavia, including Iceland, between the 8th and 13th century AD. More than half of the runic inscriptions discovered, were found in Sweden.

The Nordic scripts had originally contained the same 24 characters of the Early runes, but had gradually reduced them to 16 characters.

There are two variations of the Nordic runes: Short-twig and Danish.

The illustration on the left is the Danish variation of the Nordic scripts. The following scripts have remained unchanged from the Teutonic scripts: f, u, th, r, k, n, i, t, b and l.

The Short-twig have the same number of characters as the Danish variation, yet it has simplified the Danish scripts. Simplified as in some stroke were truncated. For now, I don't have a diagram on the list of Short-twig scripts.



Rune Magic

Runes have magical significance, where certain arrangement of the rune letters allow the person to wield sorcery. Runes were often used as a ward or charm. Odin tried to learn the magic of the runes, hoping to find a secret that will help in Ragnarok. (See Sacrifice: Hanging and Runes about Odin's sacrifice in order to learn the secret of runic magic.)

The Valkyrie Sigrdrifa in Sigrdrifumal (Poetic Edda) or Brynhild in Volsungassaga, had taught the hero Sigurd some magic with the use of these runes.

Runes were often used as a ward or charm, particularly on swords and spear. There are archaeological evidences of such runes on weapons with the name of Tyr (Tiwaz), the god of war - , which is similar to the English letter "t", or that of the name of Odin (Wodan), inscribed on blades, hilts or spear shafts. The rune Tyr signified victory in battle. Brynhild or Sigrdrifa told Sigurd that the victory runes, inscribing the Tyr rune twice () on the swordhilt and twice on the centre ridge of the blade.

The another recognisable rune ward is ale-runes, which was marked with the runic inscription naud - , which sounds like the English letter "n". This was marked on the drinking horn, and it protect a man from being guiled by another man's wife.

Other magic runes the Valkyrie had mentioned in both works are: speech-runes, mind-runes, helping-runes (most likely the same as aid-runes), healing-runes, cure-runes (botrúnar), branch-runes, beech-runes (bokrúnar), wave-runes (used on a ship).

Runes can also be used as a warning, as it was the case, when Gudrun carved some runic scripts on her ring (Andvaranaut) to warn her brothers about the treachery of her second husband, Atli. (See Volsunga Saga.)

The runes were also used for divination. Runes could be use to foretell the future in much the same way as the methods of casting lots, numerology and the tarot cards. The Roman historian Tactius, recorded that the Germanic tribes used casting lots for divinatory purpose. The used barks or small piece of woods, which they marked symbols (possibly runes?) on. These were then cast on the white cloth. Three symbols were chosen, and the priest or shaman would interpret these three symbols.

   









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